When you think of the local pharmacy, you probably don't often consider it a hotspot for young, tech-savvy people. Walgreens is trying to change that perception.
"Relevancy is critical to driving the brand," says Rich Lesperance, senior director of Walgreens' digital wallet and rewards programs. "We believe that offering a valuable experience through whichever channel our customers choose to engage will allow us to stay at the forefront."
To make the experience of traditional drug-store tasks more relevant, the company is throwing in a few extra mobile and social ingredients. For example, customers can print photos with friends' comments along the right side of the print.
The extra spice is drawing attention.
The idea of adding Facebook comments to a print of a photo, which the company calls "social printing," is one that has evolved over time, Lesperance says. Walgreens added the "Quickprints" feature to its mobile app in mid-2012. It enabled users to send digital versions of photos to their nearest store and pick them up in about an hour, a move that made sense given that lots of people take more pictures with phones than with cameras.
"As we continued to innovate within the photo space, we saw an opportunity to help customers capture a moment by applying similar functionality to social media," he says. "The PrintWorthy feature lets Facebook users print photos, complete with the social context of comments and 'likes' to their local Walgreens."
Users can send in photos with comments via Facebook or through their smartphones, Lesperance adds. The Facebook version of the app reminds users of friends' upcoming birthdays and other life events, and it even highlights the most popular photos, either by comments or "likes."
Last March, Walgreens became one of the first companies to offer coupons via Foursquare, for items such as cans of iced tea.
"Foursquare, as a part of our mobile coupon program, continues to exceed expectations. We see a growing appetite for unique in-store offers among platform users," Lesperance says.
Walgreens also offers coupons for items such as Nabisco crackers or Hershey's candy through its own mobile app. Those coupons go hand in hand with the ones it offers through other social platforms, such as Facebook.
The company has also added a feature to its mobile app that can make the shopping experience easier for customers.
"We now have planograms for every store in our app, so we know every item that's on a shelf by store and where it's located," Lesperance told eMarketer. "You can create a shopping list in the app, and there's a button that, with one click, the items on your list appear on the store map, which is a representation of the store."
Lesperance did not share any specific figures for social photo prints or app downloads, but the publicly available numbers show a growing popularity among social media and mobile fans. About 50,000 people use the Walgreens photo app on Facebook, according to that social media site. On Foursquare, Walgreens has more than 200,000 followers.
A Jan. 11 Facebook post about the mobile photo printing app drew more than 5,200 "likes" and 340 comments. They weren't all positive-they rarely are-but lots of commenters said they really appreciate the convenience.
"Love ordering pictures from my phone," one commenter said, adding quite a few exclamation marks. "So simple and fast! I usually have a coupon too!"
Matt Wilson is a staff writer for Ragan.com.